Mission Command expands its capabilities to reach across echelons
July 15, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July 21, 2014) -- Today's tech-savvy Soldiers enjoy a common look and feel and interoperability between their personal computers, tablets and smartphones.
With the recent merger of PM Mission Command (PM MC) and Joint Battlefield Command-Platform (JBC-P), Soldiers on duty are beginning to see this same type of system commonality, whether inside the command post or on--the-move.
"By combining these organizations, the Army is breaking down the barriers between mounted and command post communications capabilities and accelerating the transition to a simplified, unified tactical computing environment," said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), to which PM MC is assigned.
PM MC's software and web applications provide maneuver, fires, air space and logistics information displayed onto a common operating picture to the command post leader, whereas JBC-P's mounted mission command capabilities provide friendly force and enemy tracking and messaging from inside tactical vehicles. With a united program, Soldiers will operate mission command capabilities more seamlessly across environments and echelons -- and by considering compatibility up front, the Army and industry will be able to develop, test, certify and deliver these capabilities more quickly.
Col. Michael Thurston, former Project Manager for JBC-P, assumed the charter for Project Manager Mission Command (PM MC) from Col. Jonas Vogelhut on May 30.
"I am both honored and excited to lead this new, dynamic organization," Thurston said. "PM MC is positioned to lead the Army's transition from standalone systems to integrated, web-based capabilities. This technology is allowing us to realize a more holistic picture of the battlefield for synchronized operations."
To set the foundation for mission command on the web, the Army instituted the Common Operating Environment (COE), which is an approved set of computing technologies and standards that enable secure, interoperable and rapid application development across six computing environments (CEs). Three of these environments -- the Command Post Computing Environment (CP CE), Mounted Computing Environment (MCE) and Mobile/Handheld CE -- need to be closely linked to support information exchange across the Brigade Combat Team formation.
The merger unites the CP CE and MCE under one umbrella, while also promoting closer collaboration with the Mobile/Handheld environment.
Each computing environment addresses some of the limitations commanders and staff currently face to achieve overall situational awareness. The CP CE addresses the command post commander's requirement to "mentally fuse" the digital information displayed on multiple system viewers for the warfighting functions of fires, logistics, intelligence, airspace management and maneuver.
"CP CE consolidates these separate capabilities using web apps and displays them on a common, geospatial digital map hosted on a single workstation," Thurston said. "With one map, the commander no longer requires a 'swivel chair' approach to manage the mission."
Beyond the command post, tactical vehicles are evolving into mobile mission command centers -- strapped with the latest in situational awareness and messaging technology -- and are a vital communications link between dismounted Soldiers and their higher headquarters.
JBC-P, the foundation for MCE, delivers intuitive situational awareness capabilities to the mounted Soldier. With features such as a Google Earth-like interface and real-time chat rooms, Soldiers can now quickly zoom in to view precise locations, use icons to pinpoint improvised explosive devices on a map and use instant messaging to call for medics.
"MCE is a game-changer for mission command on-the-move," said Lt. Col. Michael Olmstead, product manager for JBC-P. "It allows us to streamline product development of emerging technology while ensuring capabilities are compatible across the Army."
To extend the connection to the dismounted Soldier, the MCE is beginning to deliver tactical capabilities through a standard framework that allows government and industry partners to build to a well known environment -- Android. Known as the Mounted Android Computing Environment (MACE), this strategy keeps today's tech-savvy Soldier in mind, while addressing the need for greater technological simplicity and interoperability across the force.
MACE operates seamlessly with the smartphone-like Nett Warrior handheld system. Composed of an Android handheld device connected to a tactical radio, Nett Warrior allows dismounted leaders to see their own location, the locations of their fellow Soldiers and the locations of known enemies on a moving map.
"This is simple for the Soldiers, easy to build for developers and provides a level of customization that we just haven't had before," said Dan Stroka, lead for MACE under Product Manager (PdM) JBC-P.
With Software Development Kits (SDKs) in place for both the CP CE (which leverages the Ozone widget framework for apps in the command post) and the Android-based MACE, the unified PM MC is driving forward to deliver these kits to third party developers, which will allow them to deliver innovative, interoperable applications.
"Even in today's fiscal climate, we know we still need to deliver new capabilities to our Soldiers and doing it through apps is a smart way to make investments with what resources we have," Olmstead said.
Whether accessing information on secure handheld devices, vehicle mounted systems or command post screens, the new PM MC is delivering a "plug and play" experience similar to what has become the norm in daily home and office environments.
"Just like a user becomes familiar with multiple personal devices running an Apple, Google or Windows operating system, Soldiers should be able to seamlessly access tactical applications no matter where he is or what device he's using," Hughes said. "The new PM MC, now with JBC-P capabilities, will accelerate this critical transition to interoperable mission command capabilities across all echelons."